NHL Power Rankings: Best all-time expansion draft moves

In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we are going to take a look back at the all-time best expansion draft moves.

The Seattle Kraken are set to enter the NHL and will officially announce their initial roster with Wednesday’s expansion draft. There are a lot of interesting (and big name) players available for them, and depending on how they build their roster and use their leverage with other teams they could be an initial success like the Golden Knights. Maybe not to that extreme, but certainly within playoff contention.

Vegas built itself into an immediate contender with some smart expansion picks and shrewd deals taking advantage of other team’s desperation and worry about who they would lose. Several of those moves make this week’s list.

This list includes both actual expansion draft picks, and side deals that were made during the process.

Which moves make this week’s NHL Power Rankings?

To the NHL Power Rankings!

1. New York Islanders select Billy Smith (1972). Smith was the Islanders’ second pick in the 1972 expansion draft, taking him from the Kings following his rookie season. He would go on to be one of the most important players in the history of the franchise, serving as their starting goalie for more than a decade-and-a-half and backstopping the team to four Stanley Cups in the 1980s. On an individual level he won a Vezina, a Jennings, and the Conn Smythe Trophy during his Hall of Fame career.

2. St. Louis Blues select Glenn Hall (1967). The Blues were initially the most successful of the 1967 expansion teams, and goaltending played a huge role in that. They represented the new division in the Cup Final in each of their first three seasons, with Hall playing a central role in a lot of that success. He won the Conn Smythe in a losing Cup Final effort in 1968, and then followed that up with a Vezina the next year.

3. Vegas Golden Knights acquire Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith from Florida (2017). This is probably the signature move of Vegas’ expansion draft as Florida traded Smith to Vegas in exchange for the Golden Knights selecting Marchessault in the expansion draft. The Panthers wanted to shed Smith’s contract, knew Marchessault was in line for a raise, and wanted to protect four defensemen (including Mark Pysyk and Alex Petrovic). It proved to be a disastrous for Florida and a key foundational piece for Vegas. Marchessault was Florida’s top goal scorer while Smith had a proven track record of being a top-six winger (even if inconsistent). Together they have helped form one of Vegas’ top lines and been a key part of their continued success.

[Related: Lessons Kraken, rest of NHL can take from Golden Knights expansion draft]

4. Vegas Golden Knights select Marc-Andre Fleury (and gets a second-rounder) from Pittsburgh (2017). Everybody knew the Golden Knights were going to get a goalie from Pittsburgh, who had the dilemma of protecting either Fleury or Matt Murray. They opted to go with the younger, cheaper option that had just backstopped them to consecutive Stanley Cups. A sensible move that any team would have made. To ensure that Vegas took Fleury and his remaining contract the Penguins gave the Golden Knights a second-round pick. Fleury helped lead the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final in year one and this season won his first ever Vezina Trophy.

5. Nashville Predators gets Kimmo Timonen from the Kings (1998). When the Nashville Predators entered the NHL for the 1998 season the Kings really did not want to lose 35-year-old defenseman Garry Galley. So much so that they traded Timonen and Jan Vopat to the Predators in exchange for them not selecting Galley. Timonen went on to become one of Nashville’s top players and a top-line defensemen for years, while Galley played just three more mostly forgettable seasons for the Kings.

6. Philadelphia Flyers select Bernie Parent  (1967). Parent is the greatest goalie in Flyers history and was one of the foundational pieces of their mid 1970s Cup winning teams. The only reason he is not higher on the list is because his time with the Flyers was split up. Following his selection in the expansion draft he played three-and-a-half years with the Flyers before being traded to Toronto. He spent two years in Toronto, then a year in the WHA, and was eventually traded back to Philadelphia in 1974 just in time to start their Stanley Cup runs. Had his time with the Flyers been continuous this pick would have been in the top-two.

[Related: NHL Mock Expansion Draft, projecting Seattle Kraken roster]

7. Vegas Golden Knights acquire William Karlsson, first-rounder from Blue Jackets (2017). Columbus really wanted to shed David Clarkson’s contract and make sure that Vegas did not take a collection of players that included Josh Anderson. So they sent a first-round pick and Karlsson to Vegas in exchange for eating Clarkson’s contract and not taking a select group of players. Karlsson had an immediate breakout season in Vegas and has been one of its top players for the past four years, while the first-round pick was used to select Nick Suzuki who was later traded for Max Pacioretty.

8. Nashville Predators select Tomas Vokoun  (1998). Goalies tend to be the one position that teams have consistently been able to find in the expansion draft, and the Predators found a couple of them in Mike Dunham and Tomas Vokoun. Vokoun ended up being the best of the two and had one of the most underrated careers of his era. A consistently top-tier goalie that rarely received the attention for his strong play.

9. Florida Panthers select Scott Mellanby from Edmonton Oilers (1993). The early 1990s expansion drafts were dreadful for new teams entering the league and played a major role in their early struggles. But one of the few gems that a team managed to find was Florida getting Mellanby from the Oilers. He became one of the best of the original Panthers and had a very productive career in Florida, helping the team to the 1996 Cup Final. He is also responsible for the start of the “Rat Trick.”

10. Vegas Golden Knights get Shea Theodore from Ducks (2017). The Ducks were so desperate to get rid of Clayton Stoner (and also to protect Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm; while also using a spot on Kevin Bieksa due to his no-trade clause) that they sent Shea Theodore to Vegas in exchange for selecting Stoner. Stoner never actually played a game for the Golden Knights, but Theodore has become one of the league’s best all-around defenders and become a key part of their defense.

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    Retired USA star Kacey Bellamy reflects on legacy, hockey career

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    Kacey Bellamy may have caught the hockey world off guard with a seemingly surprising retirement announcement on Tuesday morning.

    It’s something she’s been thinking about for some time, though, and the timing — for her — became right to step aside, and in her own words, allow room for someone else to make their mark with Team USA.

    “I’ve been thinking about this for a while,” Bellamy told NBC Sports. “I planned to play in Worlds at May, and knew that would be my last time. Everything got postponed and delayed, so I kind of took a step back and looked at the big picture. Centralization would be pushed back again, Worlds, and decided this was a great chance for someone else to get the opportunity to reach their dreams.”

    Bellamy, who medaled at the Olympics three times including USA’s gold in 2018, had a 15-year career with the national team. She also won an NWHL Isobel Cup and three CWHL Clarkson Cups.

    The 34-year-old lives in Calgary now, where she finished her CWHL career with the Inferno before they ceased operations. She said the extra years she got from that move changed her career for the better.

    “The game has grown so much since I started,” said Bellamy. “Not just the competition and speed and size and all that, but the media attention and how that has grown. I got a few extra years here in Calgary, and that was the best decision I made and I’m so grateful.”

    Bellamy had a stint coaching with Merrimack College in Massachusetts between 2016 and 2018, but said the balance between coaching and training was too much of a strain. She might consider getting back into coaching with more of a defined focus.

    The New Hampshire alum doesn’t know exactly when that would be, though, or what’s next; today was about reflecting on her career, which changed the national team forever.

    “There’s been incredible support from everyone,” she said. “It’s something I knew would happen, but I’m still kind of speechless over it. I don’t really cry, but today was a day I shed some tears. I made a video for my parents and that set my emotions off, they did everything for me to reach my dream.”

    In 130 games with the U.S. national team, the defender posted 11 goals and 38 assists. Across two leagues as a professional, she tallied 22 goals and 83 assists in 166 games. She was a part of the Boston Pride’s first ever Isobel Cup in the NWHL’s inaugural season.

    Her legacy includes the gold medal, but she said what she’s most proud of and will remember most fondly is how she and her teammates bonded together during the 2017 boycott against USA Hockey for equal conditions.

    “That changed the landscape,” she said. “The leadership, that all changed around us. That’s the reason we could be so successful while being united.”

    Without Bellamy, the national team will have to make adjustments ahead of Worlds in August and the Olympics. Her departure came as a surprise to many within the sport, but there’s a lot of talent ready to step in, and for Bellamy, that made it an easier choice.

    “It was worth it to give someone else that chance,” she said. “I looked at the whole scope, and the team, they’re in such a good place. There’s younger girls, they have a solid core on defense. Nothing but confidence from me others will step up as well.”

    Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.

    NHL Mock Draft: Owen Power tops 2021 prospect class

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    By Ryan Wagman, McKeen’s Hockey lead prospect writer

    This is going to be weird. The only thing I can guarantee at this stage is that this is going to be all wrong. As I write this mock draft, the World U-18 Championships are underway in Texas (how about that Danila Klimovich?!?).

    The OHL finally gave up the ghost and announced that there would not be a season this year. Other junior leagues are also done (much of Europe) or in the process of wrapping up (WHL, QMJHL, USHL). And COVID-19 reared its ugly head in additional ways, such as forcing Michigan, and their three elite prospects (more on whom shortly) from the NCAA Frozen Four tournament.

    Take all of those factors, which severely curtailed the ability of teams to scout players – both in person and in the limiting of the video available, thanks to simply fewer games – and now add in the wild card factor of the expansion Seattle Kraken. There will be side deals between the Kraken and other NHL clubs, as the latter group will have some teams that want to ensure a player of their choice is selected in the expansion draft. Last time we saw expansion, Vegas picked up first rounders from Columbus and the Islanders in addition to their natural pick. 

    Speaking of the Kraken, their odds in the draft will be equal to the team with the third worst record in the current season. The top three picks will be subject to the draft lottery, but for the purpose of this mock, we will line up Seattle with pick No. 4 and otherwise slot the other teams in order of their record as of the end of play on Sunday, May 2. In a slight nod towards reality, the last 16 picks will be the teams currently in playoff positions, the final four picks will be the top teams in each division, as the 32nd pick goes towards the Stanley Cup winner and pick 31 goes to the Stanley Cup Final loser. Picks 29-30 will go, to the two teams that lose in the conference finals, in ascending order of their regular season records.

    Finally, this mock will only have 31 picks, as the Coyotes were stripped of their 2021 first rounder due to the scandal uncovered during the 2019-20 season regarding violations of the NHL Combine Testing Policy. Notes are based on my own viewings of the players in question as well as those of my colleagues at McKeensHockey.com.

    Let’s do that hockey (mock drafting)!

    [The 2021 NHL Draft will be held virtually on July 23-24.]

    1. Buffalo Sabres – Owen Power, D, Michigan (NCAA/Big 10)

    We don’t have much of a track record to use when trying to guess at Buffalo’s intentions on draft day. The Kevyn Adams regime began shortly before the previous draft, so their selection of Jack Quinn in the top 10 is unlikely to be indicative of much. I will state that the impression I get considering the backgrounds of Adams and Director of Scouting Jeremiah Crowe is that they should be comfortable with the collegiate ranks. Adams took that route himself in his playing days, while Crowe spent two seasons with the USNTDP after his own playing career fizzled out after four seasons at Clarkson.

    Power is a viable number one in this draft class. A physical behemoth with a diverse and mature game. The top end of the Buffalo system is forward heavy, but outside of 2018 No. 1 pick Rasmus Dahlin, it is possible that none of the other blueliners currently playing for the Sabres in the NHL will still be with the team when it is ready to compete again. The top blueliners in the system – Oskaari Laaksonen, Mattias Samuelsson, Ryan Johnson, are all more likely to top out in the second pairing. Power can be a game changer. I expect Power’s Michigan teammate Matthew Beniers and Canadian bluliner Brandt Clarke to also be heavily considered for the pole position.

    2. Anaheim Ducks – Matthew Beniers, C, Michigan (NCAA/Big 10)

    The Ducks next wave is already upon us. Jamie Drysdale took advantage of the OHL absence to light it up at the AHL level, while Trevor Zegras was handled relatively carefully, given more time in San Diego than he likely needed. Anaheim is a team that has recently scouted the American track heavily, and Zegras is among the fruits of that harvest. Beniers has actually played with Zegras before. When the current Duck was in his draft eligible season, Beniers was playing with the USNTDP as well, and impressed so much with the U17s that he was bumped up to play with the U18s for roughly a third of the season, including the year-ending WU18 tournament. A natural center, Beniers can play on the wing as well and will provide the excellent two-way presence that so many recent Cup winners have relied on, such as Jonathan Toews, Anze Kopitar, Patrice Bergeron, or Ryan O’Reilly. There are others in this draft class who are expected to have greater offensive impacts in the NHL, but I am hard-pressed to think of another who can do so much to support winning as Beniers. If not Beniers, I could also see Anaheim looking heavily at a trio of blueliners in Luke Hughes, Brandt Clarke, and Simon Edvinsson

    3. New Jersey Devils – Jesper Wallstedt, G, Lulea (SHL)

    After making three picks in the first round last year, and owning the Islanders pick as well as this one, and factoring in the overall depth of their system, the Devils can afford to swing for the fences. I used to be among those analysts who would swear a blue streak at the thought of drafting a goalie in the first round. I still reflexively cringe at the idea, but I have come to believe that NHL teams are doing better in scouting netminders, and in developing them. New Jersey’s incumbent starter, Mackenzie Blackwood, is still pretty young, and talented, but he has yet to prove that he is more than average in the net, or capable of dragging a subpar team to postseason glory on his own. Wallstedt, helped by elite play reading capability, and a mature overall game in terms of both composure and technique, looks like he will be that type. It’s risky, but this is the time to take that risk. If not Wallstedt, I could see the other players listed in the maybes above, as well as Chaz Lucius as possibilities.

    4. Seattle Kraken – Brandt Clarke, D, HC Nove Zamky (Slovakia)

    How do you begin to build an NHL franchise? In his time as GM and/or Director of Hockey Operations with the Hurricanes, Seattle GM Ron Francis built from the blueline, using first rounders on the likes of Ryan Murphy, Haydn Fleury, Noah Hanifin, and Jake Bean. Other building blocks to the successful team Carolina is today come from other blueline draft picks such as Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce. Regardless of how many (if any) other first round picks Seattle picks up before draft day, and considering the strength of this draft class resides on defense, I see them starting with one. I have already touched on the likes of Clarke, Edvinsson, and Hughes, but see Clarke being the pick here, as his game has the most polish, and near-term readiness, with high end puck skills married to near elite hockey IQ and adaptability. 

    5. Vancouver Canucks – Luke Hughes, D, USNTDP (USHL)

    In this scenario, we have already seen one team pass on the chance to have two Hughes brothers in a single organization. Assuming his medicals check out (his season ended early due to a skate laceration on his leg), I could easily see Vancouver bringing in Luke to play with Quinn. The two brothers are very dissimilar as players, other than both being beautiful skaters. The younger Hughes is bigger and plays with far more bite. His game off-the-puck needs refining and greater consistency, but Luke Hughes has the dynamic elements that could lead to stardom of his own. The young Hughes has already been following in Quinn’s footsteps having spent the last two years with the USNTDP and electing to commit to Michigan, where Quinn is fondly remembered. Other than Hughes, the Canucks are likely to be considering Edvinsson, Lucius and Dylan Guenther.

    6. Columbus Blue Jackets – Dylan Guenther, RW, Edmonton (WHL)

    GM Jarmo Kekalainen and Director of Amateur Scouting Ville Siren are the types to zig when everyone else zags. I would be shocked if at least one of their three first rounders this year is not off-the-board, but I don’t see it being their first pick, especially this high. Overall, the Columbus system is shallow. With Guenther, the Blue Jackets would be adding one of the higher-end offensive weapons in this draft class, who projects as a first line point producer in short order. Columbus has drafted heavily out of Europe in recent years, and I could also see them leaning towards Edvinsson, Fabian Lysell, or William Eklund.

    [For more coverage of top prospects and the 2020 NHL Draft, follow @Ryan Wagman on Twitter]

    7. LA Kings – Simon Edvinsson, D, Frolunda J20 (J20 Nationell)/Frolunda HC (SHL), Vasteras IK (Allsvenskan)

    The Kings have done a remarkable job at filling in the prospect cupboards in recent years, adding a ton of both quality and quantity to the system. That prospect pool is strongest up front, especially at center, with Quinton Byfield and Alex Turcotte both experiencing their rookie pro seasons this year, and Gabriel Vilardi having an up-and-down rookie NHL campaign. They have also added a lot of depth to the defensive corps, but none who have obvious first pairing upside, much less a true No. 1. Edvinsson is not without risk, but 6-foot-4 defenders who can skate like the wind and move the puck with such skill are rare finds. In fact, he could easily be long gone by the seventh pick in the draft. Edvinsson needs to be more consistent off the puck, but that aforementioned prospect depth will enable LA to be patient with this pick.

    8. Detroit Red Wings – Sebastian Cossa, G, Edmonton (WHL)

    My feelings about drafting goaltenders early are already established. So why go with two in the top eight? Because they are simply that promising. The Red Wings do not have high-probability “goalie of the future” in the system, and the best one under their control at present, Keith Petruzzelli, has yet to sign a pro contract, meaning he could become a free agent within a few months. Cossa has been the clear starter for the Oil Kings for two seasons now and is blessed with high end athleticism as well size you can dream on. GM Steve Yzerman would also be comfortable drafting a goalie high, as he pulled the trigger on Andrei Vasilevskiy in the first round not too long ago when he was still with Tampa, and that worked out pretty well.

    9. Ottawa Senators – Fabian Lysell, RW, Lulea HF (SHL)

    Like a few of the teams who have already made their first picks here, the Senators have been building a massive collection of high-end prospects in recent years. They would have loved to see one of the goalies available here, but in this scenario, they will have to add another skater. In this spot, I would aim for as much upside as I could find. Other options include Chaz Lucius and Mason McTavish, but I like Lysell’s combination of high end skating and puck skills. He has game breaking talent and could be a great fit with the other talented young forwards currently playing in Ottawa.

    10. San Jose Sharks – Kent Johnson, C, Michigan (NCAA/Big 10)

    All else being equal, the Sharks would love for one of the blueliners who have already been drafted to be available for them in this spot. The system has been infused in recent drafts with a number of skilled forwards, with only 2018 first rounder Ryan Markley representing the future blueline. The available forwards are all carrying first line projections, but I see the Sharks being more comfortable with Michigan star Johnson, instead of Chaz Lucius, Mason McTavish, or William Eklund. Johnson played with San Jose’s 2019 second rounder Thomas Bordeleau this year. Johnson needs to gain more strength before turning pro, but his puck skills could play right now.

    11. Calgary Flames – Mason McTavish, C, EHC Olten (SL)

    The Flames tend to like well-rounded players, and they are not as concerned with pure straight-line speed as many other teams are these days. McTavish fits that bill to a ‘T,’ and not at all because his father Dale played nine games for the Flames back in 1996-97 before embarking on a long and successful career in Europe. Mason has already experienced pro hockey in Europe, going to play in Switzerland in the absence of opportunities to suit up for his “normal” team in the OHL. His nine goals for Olten tied for the most goals by all U20 players in Switzerland’s second tier, and he did it in only 13 games. His brilliance continued in the SL playoffs and McTavish has since been starring for Canada at the U18s. His stock is on the rise.

    12. Chicago Blackhawks – Chaz Lucius, C, USNTDP (USHL)

    Although his draft year was hampered by first a lower body injury and then COVID, the latter of which prevented him from joining his teammates at the U18s, when Lucius played, he was fantastic. Most people notice the goal scoring (13 in 13 games), or the playmaking, but watching him closely, he also does a lot of little things that aren’t necessarily picked up in the scoresheet, but help his linemates succeed. His game style is well-suited to the NHL and a couple of seasons with the Minnesota Golden Gophers will make sure he is ready to hit the ground running (hit the ice skating) when his time comes. I could also see the Blackhawks considering William Eklund, or local talent Matt Coronato at this spot.

    FORFEITED – Arizona Coyotes

    12. Philadelphia Flyers – William Eklund, LW, Djurgardens (SHL)

    The COVID pandemic ending of the hockey season last year meant that Eklund was unable to play at last year’s U18s (a late 2002-birthday means he is ineligible this time around), while his own COVID diagnosis this December prevented him from joining Sweden for the 2021 WJC. So the hype is muted, but Eklund is the top prospect on the board in this scenario. He still needs to complete his physical development, but his puck skills and instincts in the offensive zone mark him as special. A full season and a half playing regularly in the SHL also give him a high floor, as his success with Djurgardens this year tells us that he can already get the job done playing against men.

    14. Dallas Stars – Francesco Pinelli, C, HDD Jesenice (AlpsHL)

    After a few years of stress on “safe” players in the draft – players with big intangibles attached to a modicum of skill (not bad players, but…), the Stars went big on skill last year, with the likes of Mavrik Bourque, Antonio Stranges, and Evgeny Oksentyuk joining the organization. Why not get a player this year who has a bit of both in him? Pinelli didn’t mope when the OHL stayed dark all year. Instead, he found a place to play – in Slovenia, of all places. He only got in 13 games, but he made them count, with 11 points. Before we decry the quality of Slovenian hockey too much, Pinelli’s team – HDD Jesenice – plays in the AlpsHL, which combines two Slovenian sides with a number of clubs in Italy and Austria, including the famous Red Bull Hockey Akademy in Salzburg. The fact that Pinelli has been one of Canada’s better performers at the U18s only helps his cause to be picked around the middle of the first round.

    15. New York Rangers – Aatu Raty, C, Karpat (Liiga)

    In building up their system after famously announcing a rebuild to their fans a few years back, the Rangers have loaded up on picks and currently sit on one of the deepest prospect pools in the league. The fact that the team already looks like a strong candidate to make the postseason in 2021-22 – and would have made the playoffs in a few other divisions this year – indicates that the refresh is working. There are high end pieces on the way at every position, in addition to the pieces that are already playing on Broadway, such as recent first rounders Alexis Lafrenière, Kaapo Kakko and K’Andre Miller. The days of picking in the top three seem done, and likely for a long time to come. So why not take advantage of a player whose stick has dropped a ton this year, but who 12 months ago was viewed by many as a likely top three 2021 pick.

    Raty failed to show much progress in his second go round playing in Liiga, and didn’t make the Finnish WJC squad either, but he still has more puck skill than just about anyone eligible for this draft, much less those who are still on the board in this scenario. If not Raty, I could see the Rangers drafting one of the two top snipers from the USHL this year, in either Cole Sillinger, or native New Yorker Matt Coronato.

    16. St. Louis Blues – Isak Rosen, RW, Leksands IF (SHL)

    If there is anything I can say about the 2021 NHL draft with any certainty, it is that the U18s will impact a player’s relative standing more than ever. These looks are not only the last, but they are, for most involved, the only best-against-best event of the year, a year that saw practically everyone play less than usual. And the tournament was the perfect opportunity for a player like Isak Rosen to strut his stuff. After the Swedish junior circuit was cancelled in January, he moved up to play against men in the SHL, and didn’t do all that much, with only a single assist in 22 games. Back to playing against peers in the U18s, Rosen has been excelling yet again, including a goal and an assist in the quarterfinal upset of the host US team. Rosen is a versatile winger with speed, a great shot and high-end offensive instincts.

    17. Montreal Canadiens – Zachary L’Heureux, C, Halifax (QMJHL)

    Many times in recent years, people have lined Montreal’s draft pick up with the latest and greatest talent from the QMJHL, especially Francophone Q’ers. Time and time again, the Canadiens have ignored those calls, and avoided drafting anyone out of the QMJHL earlier than the fifth round, a trend which goes back to drafting Nathan Beaulieu in the first round in 2011*. So while I don’t expect Montreal to use a high draft pick on a QMJHL player, there is no year like the present one to break that trend. The Q has had a fuller season than most other junior leagues, and L’Heureux has some traits that the Habs have valued under GM Marc Bergevin. He has a lot of offensive skill including a killer wrist shot, and plays with a bit of snarl and grit as well. The fact that he is from Montreal is merely incidental.

    *Technically, Beaulieu is from Ontario, but he was drafted out of the QMJHL.

    18. Winnipeg Jets – Cole Sillinger, LW, Sioux Falls (USHL)

    Cole Sillinger’s father, Mike, was known in some circles as “Suitcase Sillinger” for having played with 12 different NHL franchises over a career that spanned 1,049 games between 1990-2008. The Jets were not one of those teams. Cole could make a name for the Sillingers in a new NHL town with this pick. After a very impressive rookie WHL season with Medicine Hat, the uncertainty surrounding the league due to COVID coerced the sniper to accept a re-assignment to USHL Sioux Falls, where on most nights he was the only real threat the Stampede had. Blessed with the best shot in this draft class, and a game that seems suited for the pros, the young Sillinger could soon help the Jets move past the Blake Wheeler era. I know, I, too, have a hard time believing that Wheeler is going to turn 35 this offseason. Sillinger should be a quick study to get to the pros and he would have been playing with Canada at the U18s if not for a poorly timed positive COVID test result.

    19. Nashville Predators – Corson Ceulemans, D, Brooks (AJHL)

    Known for years as a factory for young high-end defensemen, in recent seasons Nashville has focused elsewhere at the top of the draft. Maybe it’s time for David Poile and friends to return to their roots. Ceulemans was once seen as a potential top-ten type in the draft, but when COVID kept the AJHL from playing for much of the year, he did not relocate for ice time. Thankfully for the Wisconsin commit, once the league restarted, he was ready to fly from day one, putting up 11 points in eight games before joining Team Canada at the U18s, where he is tied for second among all blueliners in scoring through the quarterfinal round. Ceulemans does a lot very well and his puck skills are particularly notable for his position. If Nashville agrees in my direction for them at this draft, they could also be landing spots for Jack Bar or Aidan Hreschuk, both of whom impressed in the USHL this year.

    20. Edmonton Oilers – Fyodor Svechkov, C, RW, Lada Togliatti (VHL)

    Sticking to the theme of good performers in the U18s, Edmonton has shied away from CHL prospects in the last few drafts, preferring collegians and Europeans, so why not look at one of the top performers from the explosive Russian squad. It isn’t like GM Ken Holland wouldn’t have extensive positive experiences with young Russian players. Svechkov may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he is a great skater, can play on the wing as well as up the middle, as has a well-rounded skill set and offensive game. He also performed very well in Russia’s second tier men’s league, creating optimism about the maturity of his game. Edmonton would also be a reasonable landing spot for one of a pair of talented Swedish wingers in William Stromgren or Oskar Olausson, the latter of whom performed well enough at the WJC this past winter.

    21. New Jersey (from NYI, as part of Palmieri/Zajac trade) – Matt Coronato, LW, Chicago (USHL)

    In this scenario, the Devils used their first pick on a potential future workhorse goalie. At this stage in the draft, the best players on the board are all forwards and the Devils will get to choose between players who might be closer to professional impact such as Oskar Olausson and Logan Stankoven, or players with a bit more runway ahead of them, such as Matt Coronato or William Stromgren. With so many young prospects pushing for roles with New Jersey in the next or two, it seems the more prudent course of action would be a player who might take more time. Coronato, from nearby New York City, would be my choice, even if there isn’t much to separate the above-mentioned quartet. The puck sticks him as if magnetized and he can score from anywhere. He will need some time at Harvard to learn to play with quicker puck touches, but the skill set is special.

    22. Boston Bruins – Oskar Olausson, LW, HV71 (SHL)/Sodertalje SK (HockeyAllsvenskan) / HV 71 (J20 Nationell)

    After the Bruins went almost completely into college-bound players with their four picks last year, it’s time to give their other scouts some love and spread the influence. There are a couple of gifted wingers from Sweden on the board in this scenario and the Bruins do seem to have a type in rangy players. I see them looking at the same pool of guys that New Jersey was looking at above. If they are ready to pass on size, Stankoven might be the favorite, but Olausson and Stromgren both have that length. Stromgren’s U18 tournament has been adequate so far, roughly the same as can be said for Olausson at the WJC. On the other hand, Stromgren spent a greater share of this past season playing against men in Sweden. Stromgren is a bit taller and a sleeker skater, but I am going with Olausson in this scenario, whose mental game is stronger and he is a bit more filled out.

    23. Minnesota Wild – Xavier Bourgault, C, Shawinigan (QMJHL)

    With two picks in the span of three (remember the order will change between now and July), so the Wild can take at least one risk. More than most teams of late, Minnesota has not been shy about drafting shorter players, with last year’s first rounder Marco Rossi being Exhibit A to that approach. While Stankoven would certainly have an appeal here, it might make sense to mix up the types in the organization, and maybe Stankoven would still be available with their second pick in the round. There are many directions that Minnesota can go here, but the well-rounded game of Bourgault gives them the safety that would make a calculated risk more palatable with the other pick. Bourgault has been tearing up the Q for two years now and has a higher floor than many of the others still on the board.

    24. Colorado Avalanche – Nikita Chibrikov, RW, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL) / SKA-Neva St. Petersburg (VHL) / SKA-1946 St. Petersburg (MHL)

    One of the advantages of being a deep, talented organization is that you can let your new prospects marinate fully before bringing them over. In some cases, that means letting a young man spend three or four years on campus before signing him to a contract. In others, it means extensive time in the AHL. Or in this case, it means not being concerned that a player is under contract for two more seasons in Russia. Chibrikov has been one of the top performers in the U18s, through the quarterfinals. He plays with good pace and is a puck control wizard. He more than held his own this year playing against men in Russia’s second pro tier and didn’t embarrass himself in a KHL stint, either. And despite smaller size, he plays with impressive grit. 

    25. Minnesota Wild (from PIT, as part of Zucker trade) – Jack Peart, D, Fargo (USHL) / Grand Rapids HS (USHS-MN)

    With Bourgault already locked up, the Wild can take that risk now. In the interest of diversification of assets, I believe in getting different types of players when a team has multiple picks in the first round. I have already mentioned Stankoven, but in this case, I think the best approach would be drafting a defender. The best blueliners on the board all spent the bulk of this season in the USHL. I am looking at Jack Bar, Jack Peart and Aidan Hreschuk. Bar has an appealing combination of size, physicality, mobility and offense, and is the sole right-handed shot of this trio. Peart is smaller, but remarkably poised and skilled as a puck mover. Hreschuk is closer to Peart’s size, but plays with some of the same snarl that Bar brings. He had some rough moments in the U18s, but was the most consistent of the trio this year. That said, Peart split his year between the Minnesota high school ranks and was full value for winning the state’s Mr. Hockey Award. The Wild will be happy to watch him develop not far from their backyard at St. Cloud State.

    26. Columbus Blue Jackets (from TB, as part of Savard trade) – Logan Stankoven, C, Kamloops (WHL)

    After getting Dylan Guenther near the top of the draft, the Blue Jackets can be the team to stop Stankoven’s fall. Stankoven has been a top scorer for two seasons now, but has demonstrated his high-end long before that, having been selected fifth overall in the WHL Bantam Draft in 2018, just four picks after Guenther. He overcomes his size concern (5-8”, 170) through his great speed and incredible shot. And like Guenther, he already wears a letter on his chest, both for his WHL team and for Team Canada at the U18s. Between these two gifted forwards, this draft would represent an exciting new direction for Columbus in player acquisition. 

    27. Florida Panthers – William Stromgren, LW, MODO Hockey (HockeyAllsvenskan) / Ornskoldsvik (HockeyEttan) / MODO Hockey J20 (J20 Nationell)

    We only have the one draft from which to glean a track record for Florida GM Bill Zito, but we at McKeens were very impressed with his first go round. There was no real geographic lean either, having selected CHL players, college-bound prospects, and Europeans. So the best way for Zito to continue to impress me (which is, clearly, his No. 1 priority!), would be to take one of the top players on the McKeens board. The top five at this point are defensemen Aidan Hreschuk and Jack Bar, WHL forward Ryder Korczak, and Swedish forwards William Stromgren and Simon Robertsson. Korczak is on the safer side, not putting up the numbers despite great tools and hockey IQ. I have already introduced Hreschuk and Bar above when discussing the second Minnesota pick. Robertsson is a good tool blend and is capable of dynamic play. But I am going with Stromgren here as he is one of the better skaters in this draft class, while also having a long, athletic frame that may portend continued growth in the coming seasons.

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    28. Detroit Red Wings (from WSH, as part of Mantha trade) – Carson Lambos, D, Winnipeg (WHL)

    The goalie of the future already in place, here the Red Wings can play with the draft board. They will be looking at the runners-up from the previous few picks, as well as an expanded group of players who we have not yet mentioned. And in the vein, swinging for the fences might be the best play. Carson Lambos is a top 10 talent for some, but a medical issue that arose after a brief stint playing in Finland while waiting for the WHL to get going has ended his season early and prevented him from playing for his country at the U18s. If Detroit doctors approve of his medicals, this long-term play could wind up being one of the best value picks of the 2021 draft.

    29. Columbus Blue Jackets (from TOR, as part of Foligno trade) – Aidan Hreschuk, D, USNTDP (USHL)

    One other time, in 2013, the Blue Jackets had three first round picks. Jarmo Kekalainen was a first year GM and used all three of his first rounders on forwards, selecting Alexander Wennberg, Kerby Rychel, and Marko Dano. Not great. With Guenther and Stankoven already selected in this scenario, I doubt he goes for a third forward. Looking primarily at Bar and Hreschuk, I see the latter being the play here as his game is more consistent at this stage. Bar can be dominant, or he can be quiet. Hreschuk finds a way to be noticed every game. His two-way game can be dominant, his reads on both sides of the puck are advanced. He plays a more physical game than his size suggests. Committed to Boston College, I could see him turning pro within two years and finding his way into a top four NHL role in short order. 

    30. Vegas Golden Knights – Samu Tuomaala, RW, Karpat U20 (U20 SM-sarja)

    If there is one trait that characterizes Vegas picks over the few short years that the Golden Knights have been on the scene, it is the pull towards dynamic capabilities. The most dynamic players on the board in this scenario are Simon Robertsson, Ayrton Martino, and Samu Tuomaala. Robertsson, I have discussed above. Martino was a BCHL’er who transplanted to Omaha of the USHL this year and was often the only player on the Lancers to create offense. Tuomaala spent much of the year in the Finnish junior leagues before a star turn with the Finnish team at the U18 tournament. Tuomaala is a fantastic skater who can beat you in a number of ways. He was drafted by Sudbury in the CHL import draft last year, but wisely stayed in Europe this year, unlike a few other OHL picks. Tuomaala is ready to play against men and should spend all of next year in Liiga with Karpat’s senior team. I could also see Vegas going for a safer player in Ryder Korczak, whose brother Kaeden is already in the Vegas system.

    31. Carolina Hurricanes – Ville Koivunen, RW/LW, Karpat U20 (U20 SM-sarja)

    It is cliché at this point, but Carolina and Finnish prospects go together like sticks and pucks. They would have considered Tuomaala as well, but there is another Finnish draft eligible forward who has been just as impressive this season, both in Finland and at the U18s. A teammate of Tuomaala’s at both stops, Koivunen doesn’t have his teammate’s wheels, but he has better puck skill and a higher hockey IQ. Koivunen is taller, but notably leaner, although that is bound to change through natural physical maturity. Simon Robertsson, Ayrton Martino, small QMJHL winger Justin Robidas, and bigger Q forward Zach Dean are also likely to be considered in this slot.

    If you’re looking for more prospect or fantasy hockey information, NBC Sports Edge is a great resource.

    Maple Leafs after NHL Free Agency: Better, worse, or the same?

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    In the grand scheme of things, it seems like the Maple Leafs covered most of their offseason to-do list after signing Ilya Mikheyev. Sure, they need to settle things with RFA Travis Dermott. And there might be some cap-related wrangling on the margins.

    (As you may remember from re-acquiring David Clarkson‘s contract and other tweaks, GM Kyle Dubas isn’t afraid to get into the weeds.)

    But, overall? It sure seems like the Maple Leafs we see today should be close to what (eventually) hits the ice to kick off the 2020-21 NHL season. So, after all of that, what’s the verdict? Are the Maple Leafs better, worse, or basically in the same spot?

    Looking ahead, let’s break the Maple Leafs’ offseason changes (or lack thereof), position by position.

    Forward group: Worse, but how much worse?

    To review, the Maple Leafs lost Andreas Johnsson, Kasperi Kapanen, Kyle Clifford, and Frederik Gauthier during the offseason. On the other hand, they brought in Joe Thornton, Wayne Simmonds, Jimmy Vesey, and Joey Anderson.

    No doubt about it, it’s crucial to consider the salary cap with virtually all of the Maple Leafs’ moves. This time around, that belt-tightening really happened regarding their forward group.

    Losing Kapanen and Johnsson largely for cap space hurts, particularly Johnsson.

    Even with Johnsson and Kapanen in the lineup, the Maple Leafs leaned quite a bit on big names such as Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander. There’s a strong chance they ask even more of them in 2020-21.

    As far as forwards added, your results may vary, and quite a bit is up in the air. At 41, and after a long layoff, what can Joe Thornton bring? Will the Maple Leafs account for his lack of footspeed, or will “Jumbo Joe” prove to be an awkward fit?

    In our memories, Wayne Simmonds is a net-front dynamo, and the sort of gritty player many see the Maple Leafs lacking. However, recent years haven’t been kind to Simmonds.

    The drop-off from the Maple Leafs’ top-six to their bottom-six could be even steeper in 2020-21.

    Maple Leafs after offseason, NHL Free Agency, Tavares, Matthews, Marner, Reilly
    (Photo by Kevin Sousa/NHLI via Getty Images)

    That said, it would be a blast if Simmonds, Thornton, and Jason Spezza all turn back the clock a bit and impress. Heck, Thornton occasionally passing to Matthews on the power play could be a fun way to mix things up if that PP unit needs the occasional remix.

    Overall, though, the depth took a hit. Maybe a substantial one.

    Defense: A better fit?

    When Tyson Barrie was traded to the Maple Leafs, his stock was probably overly inflated. Now, after a frustrating season, it seems like it was artificially diluted. Ultimately, the answer’s likely somewhere in between: the Maple Leafs lost a flawed-but-useful defenseman.

    That said, they also parted ways with Cody Ceci. It’s probably a little harsh to call that “addition by subtraction.” Then again, the problem with defensemen like Ceci and Jack Johnson isn’t always that they have issues. It’s also that teams sometimes stubbornly insist on sending them out for top-four minutes when they might be better off teetering between bottom-pairing work or watching games in street clothes.

    Such a reality might be the case for Zach Bogosian, who might need to battle with the likes of Rasmus Sandin, Travis Dermott, and Mikko Lehtonen for reps.

    Overall, the most promising addition overall — not just on defense — comes in adding T.J. Brodie. As much as anything else, he seems like a better fit for what Toronto needed. Maybe he doesn’t have the same offensive “pop” as Barrie, but he figures to be more versatile.

    Goalies: Deeper

    Heading into the offseason, there were rumblings about trading Frederik Andersen. After all, Andersen’s mix of a generous cap hit ($5 million AAV) with a tiny post-bonus actual salary ($1M) would have made him appealing to a team like, say, the cost-conscious Coyotes. One can’t totally blame Maple Leafs fans for dreaming about what Darcy Kuemper might accomplish.

    But who knows how Kuemper would transition from the low-event Coyotes to the high-drama Maple Leafs?

    While there’s always a chance Dubas has a trick up his sleeves, it looks like the Maple Leafs will stick with Andersen for 2020-21. They also get a chance to integrate Jack Campbell into the mix a bit more, and added Aaron Dell as a reasonable third goalie/reclamation project.

    Personally, I believe the Maple Leafs leaned too heavily upon Andersen over the years. Such usage might have explained a bumpy 2019-20.

    Getting Campbell and maybe also Dell in the mix more could make Andersen fresher. Doing so might be worth it, even if it means hurting your odds at better seeding. (Passing the Bruins and especially the Lightning will probably be a tall order, either way.)

    Coaching: More cohesive

    Let’s face it; the clock felt like it was ticking on Mike Babcock right from the beginning of 2019-20. Between his sniping at Dubas, stubbornness with Auston Matthews’ ice time, and general clashing of style, it just seemed like a strained situation.

    Even if Sheldon Keefe isn’t an outright upgrade, it seems clear that he’s on the same page with Dubas. Or at least they’re reading the same book.

    That cohesion might be the takeaway from this Maple Leafs offseason … you know, beyond wiggling under the salary cap. On paper, I don’t believe the Maple Leafs are better. Instead, they maybe took a slight step back.

    They do seem to be in a better overall rhythm, and for all we know, that could pay off in 2020-21.

    James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

    Meghan Duggan, a champion across women’s hockey, retires

    Meghan Duggan
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    In the midst of the U.S. women’s hockey national team fighting for better wages and equitable support, Meghan Duggan got on the phone with every player to explain what it was all about.

    With the world championships on home ice weeks away and the stakes high, Duggan felt it was her duty as captain.

    “When you think of a captain on your team and a leader on your team, you want someone that’s willing to do things that no one else is willing to do,” teammate Monique Lamoureux-Morando recalled.

    Duggan did that on and off the ice, leading the U.S. to the 2018 Olympic gold medal and spearheading the wage boycott. A year earlier that led to a new contract and a brighter spotlight on the sport.

    She announced her retirement Tuesday after 11 years with the national team. She was the first American men’s or women’s player to win seven consecutive world championship gold medals, two silver medals at the Olympics and one at worlds and the title in South Korea in her final international tournament.

    “I am incredibly thankful and humbled by the opportunities I’ve had throughout my hockey career,” Duggan said. “At the core of those experiences are people; my family, teammates, coaches, support staff, organizations, fans, and the next generation of players: you have all changed my life.”

    Duggan changed theirs.

    Her legacy off the ice will be defined by her role in the 2017 boycott over player compensation, especially in non-Olympic years. Duggan was a central figure in negotiations with USA Hockey and was a spokeswoman for the team while they were ongoing before a four-year deal was reached.

    “She fights for our sport the way she fought on the ice to win a game,” said Canadian defender Renata Fast, who had Duggan as an assistant coach at Clarkson University and played against her at the Olympics. “She was just so competitive in everything she did, and she always had a great head on her shoulder that knew the direction of where our sport needed to go.”

    With Duggan wearing the captain’s “C” the U.S. won the worlds after their contract victory. Then she turned her attention to the Olympic gold medal that had eluded the U.S. since 1998.

    At an event in the fall of 2017 at Nike’s campus in Beaverton, Oregon, Duggan took copious notes when Hockey Hall of Famer and ’98 gold medalist Cammi Granato was addressing the team. Duggan and Granato had countless conversations that year about getting a more equitable contract and trying to win at the Olympics.

    “The gist of it was, ‘How do we win this gold medal?’” Granato said. “Like, ‘We are not going to this Olympic and coming away without a gold — how do we do it?’”

    Duggan recorded 75 points (45 goals, 30 assists) in 137 games in a U.S. uniform and helped transform the culture after a gut-wrenching overtime loss to Canada in the gold-medal game at the 2014 Sochi Games.

    “I think that span from 2014 to 2018 was probably the most crucial years for our program,” longtime teammate and friend Kacey Bellamy said. “Meghan had such a hand in the way she led our team and the change in culture that we had to do in order to be successful, and that’s one of the main reasons why we won gold in 2018.”

    Duggan was a founding member of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association in 2019. The aim was to establish one sustainable pro league. She could continue playing a crucial role in fighting for more prominence for her sport.

    “She’ll continue to be a part of that, obviously not as a player, but I think in other ways,” said Hockey Hall of Famer Jayna Hefford, who played against Duggan with Canada and now works as an executive with the PWHPA. “We’re lucky to have her as a voice.”

    Duggan put up 238 points in 159 games over four seasons while winning three national championships at the University of Wisconsin. She had 19 points in 26 games over four in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and 36 more during two in the National Women’s Hockey League.

    “It goes just to her work ethic on the ice — hardest worker I know,” said Brianna Decker, who played with Duggan in college, the CWHL, NWHL and on the national team. “She always led by example on the ice but off the ice, too, every little detail of the game.”

    Because of her accomplishments from the boardroom to the locker room and on the ice, Duggan will likely soon be a part of at least the U.S. Hockey and International Ice Hockey Federation Halls of Fame. She won’t have to wait long.

    “Not many athletes get to end their career on top,” teammate Kendall Coyne Schofield said. “Whatever the criteria is for the the waiting period, she’ll be there. So give it the grace period and we’ll definitely see her in those Hall of Fames.”